A St. Patty’s Day Conversation with Anthony Smith


Yesterday was St. Patrick’s Day, and it was also the three-year “anniversary” of my friendship with Anthony Smith. After dinner (thanks, Mom, great lasagna!), we enjoyed some Wii bowling and some Guinness, and then we sat down to record this half-hour conversation. Click to watch:

Anthony unpacks “Africentric theology” and explains the differences between it and black liberation theology, what it means to be “racist,” etc. We talk about our political affiliations (I’m for Obama, Anthony is still not saying) and respond to the assumptions that this controversy should somehow derail Barack Obama’s candidacy.

The bottom line is: White Christians need to work harder to understand the history and complexity of the black church tradition and the role of prophetic voices (like Rev. Jeremiah Wright).

I am grateful to God for my friendship with Anthony, which has challenged me to examine my own privileged position as a white male, part of the dominant culture, and my own unconscious prejudice about “the other” (be it blacks, latinos, the poor, etc.).

Here are some links related to this conversation:

Anthony’s response to the Obama/Wright controversy

Ed Gilbreath: “Does Obama Have a Prayer?”

Ed Gilbreath: “The Jeremiah (Wright) Tradition”

Bob Carlton has a good recap of Obama/Wright controversy reactions

Rick Bennett: “I have no problem with what I heard from Jeremiah Wright”

“Don’t Think of a Black Man”: Watch the Clinton Campaign Get Exposed for Injecting Race into this Campaign

The Soul of Rod Garvin

Anthony and I will speaking about the emerging church next month on “The Danny Fontana Show”



Posted on 03-18-2008


  1. The Postmodern Negro on the ObamaWright Controversy | Homebrewed Christianity says:

    March 18th, 2008 at 1:35 pm

    […] I may have mentioned that Anthony Smith will be on the podcast soon, but just so you know it is gonna be sweet check out him and Steve Knight talking about the ObamaWright controversy.  Then visit their blogs and holla at them. […]

  2. dan says:

    March 18th, 2008 at 6:30 pm

    Steve; this is the best (of your journalism that i’ve seen or heard) post available from you, for anyone who needs to know the truth. anthony smith is a gracefull prophet and a Godsended kick to my ass. thank you both for recording your conversation.

  3. erico says:

    March 19th, 2008 at 12:24 am

    Dang ya’ll, Obama nailed it today…Eloquent, regal, authentic, once again speaking to our better nature.

    (Yesterday’s Obama WSJ editorial): “No matter his ultimate political fate, there is already enough pathos in Barack Obama to make him a cautionary tale. His public persona thrives on a manipulation of whites (bargaining), and his private sense of racial identity demands both self-betrayal and duplicity. His is the story of a man who flew so high, yet neglected to become himself.”

    Mr. Steele, Ha!

  4. Scott Childress says:

    March 19th, 2008 at 7:46 am

    Like tons of other folks around the blogosphere, I have started researching Black Liberation Theology…

    I became aware of this through fox news’ endless attacks on Jeremiah Wright over two months ago…it took the controversy awhile to be spread like a plague to the other networks.

    For the most part, I have to reject language that is violent and spiteful, BUT i deeply resonate with a lot of what BLT says (as much as is possible for a white guy growing up in NC)…and I see a lot of the same language from the Hebrew prophets.

    The Bible IS a book written by, for, and about an oppressed people. In that way, I think that blacks are uniquely positioned to understand an overall theme of the Bible that most whites have missed.

    It was great to hear Anthony Smith talk about how he sees these issues. I admit that I hadn’t heard of ‘post-modern negro’ until i read Tony’s new book “The New Christians”…but now I’m hooked.


    – btw, thanks for linking to me on emergentvillage

  5. erico says:

    March 19th, 2008 at 10:06 pm

    “The Bible IS a book written by, for, and about oppressed people…”

    Yup, yup…It was a Jeremiah Wright who apocalypsed the last book. Just been meditating on this. I call it the Blues.

    What I see in Wright is a prophetic impulse most store in their gut. A refusal to be “dignified”. Simply, we don’t walk where Wright, and as a highly educated black man, Wright represents to me the prophetic tradition which refuses to leave the realities of black underclass behind. I may disagree with his conclusions, but I can understand with how he got there. This is an interseting man to me. He travels beneath his critical, self-assured, “middle-class” class instinct and is refusing to condescend. See, I don’t think we know the audience, like Wright knows his congregation – critical, self-assured and hopeful.

  6. Ed Gilbreath says:

    March 20th, 2008 at 9:10 pm

    Great conversation. I especially appreciate the concluding riff on the mission of a prophet.

    Thanks for the shout out. I do track with Anthony’s point that “racism” (or white privilege) can also speak of the white community’s blindness to black culture or its refusal to engage other cultures on their own terms. I guess I shy away from the term “racism” because it usually shuts down the conversation once invoked.

  7. Progression of Faith says:

    March 22nd, 2008 at 9:40 am

    Thanks for posting that conversation. Anthony did a great job. Rev. Wright was simply following in the footsteps of all the great prophets. I wonder if those who reject him ever read the book of Jeremiah. Jeremiah and later Jesus both damn their own nation as they call for its destruction as a result of its domestic and foreign policy.

    my 2 cents…


Leave a Comment

Leave a Comment via Facebook